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Antigua was first settled by Archaic Age hunter-gatherer Amerindians called the Siboney or Ciboney. Carbon dating has established the earliest settlements started around 3100 BC. They were succeeded by the Ceramic Age pre-Columbian Arawak-speaking Saladoid people who migrated from the lower Orinoco River.
The Arawaks introduced agriculture, raising, among other crops, the famous Antigua black pineapple (Moris cultivar of Ananas comosus),corn, sweet potatoes (white with firmer flesh than the bright orange "sweet potato" used in the United States), chiles, guava, tobacco, andcotton.
The indigenous West Indians made excellent seagoing vessels which they used to sail the Atlantic and the Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks were able to colonize much of South America and the Caribbean Islands. Their descendants still live there, notably in Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Most Arawaks left Antigua around 1100 AD; those who remained were later raided by the Caribs. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs' superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most of the West Indian Arawak nations, enslaving some and possibly cannibalizing others.
The Catholic Encyclopedia does make it clear that the European invaders had some difficulty differentiating between the native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal groups in existence at that time may have been much more varied and numerous than just the two mentioned in this article.
European and African diseases, malnutrition, and slavery eventually killed most of the Caribbean's native population, although no researcher has conclusively proven any of these causes as the real reason for these deaths. Smallpox was probably the greatest killer.In fact, some historians[who?] believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of deaths amongst enslaved natives. Others believe the reportedly abundant, but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to severe malnutrition of the Amerindians, who were used to a diet fortified with protein from the sea.
The island of Antigua, originally called Wa'ladli by Arawaks, is today called Wadadli by locals. Caribs possibly called it Wa'omoni.Christopher Columbus, while sailing by in 1493, may have named it Santa Maria la Antigua after an icon in the Spanish Seville Cathedral. The Spaniards did not colonize Antigua because it lacked fresh water but not aggressive Caribs.
The English settled on Antigua in 1632; Sir Christopher Codrington settled on Barbuda in 1684. Slavery, established to run sugar plantations around 1684, was abolished in 1834. The British ruled from 1632 to 1981, with a brief French interlude in 1666.
The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. The Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird Sr became the first Prime Minister.
The politics of Antigua and Barbuda take place within a framework of a unitary, parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy, in which the Head of State is the Monarch who appoints the Governor General as vice-regal representative. Elizabeth II is the present Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, having served in that position since the islands' independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The Queen is currently represented by Governor General Sir Rodney Williams. A Council of Ministers is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, currently Gaston Browne (2014–). The Prime Minister is the Head of Government.
Executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power is vested in both the government and the two Chambers ofParliament. The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (17 members appointed by members of the government and the opposition party, and approved by the Governor-General), and the House of Representatives (17 members elected by first past the post) to serve five-year terms. The Speaker of the House is the island's most senior Attorney-at-Law- Sir Gerald Watt QC, while the President of the Senate is Attorney-at-Law- Alincia T. H. Williams-Grant.
The current Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is The United Progressive Party Member of Parliament (MP), the HonourableBaldwin Spencer.
Gaston Browne defeated his predecessor Lester Bryant Bird at the party's biennial convention in November 2012 held to elect a political leader and other party officers. The party then altered its name from the Antigua Labour Party [ALP], to the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party, ABLP. This was done to officially include the party's presence on the sister isle of Barbuda in its organisation, the only political party on the mainland to have a physical branch in Barbuda.
Since 1949, the party system had been dominated by the populist Antigua Labour Party. However, the Antigua and Barbuda legislative election of 2004 saw the defeat of the longest-serving elected government in the Caribbean. Prime Minister Lester Bryant Bird, who had succeeded his father Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., and Deputy Robin Yearwood had been in office since 1976.
The elder Bird was Prime Minister from 1981 to 1994 and Chief Minister of Antigua from 1960 to 1981, except for the 1971–1976 period when the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) defeated his party. Vere Cornwall Bird, the nation's first Prime Minister, is credited with having brought Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean into a new era of independence.
The Judicial Branch is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based in Saint Lucia; one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court of Justice). In addition, Antigua is a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Supreme Court of Appeal was the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council up until 2001, when a few nations of the Caribbean Community voted to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council in favor of a Caribbean Court of Justice. However, Antigua and Barbuda still maintains the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as its Supreme Court of Appeal.